In the 2001 movie “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” the character Samwise Gamgee realized that when he was about to take one more step from the Shire, he would be the farthest from home he had ever been.
While delivering the keynote address at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Freshman Convocation on Aug. 16, Dr. Julien Mirivel described this movie scene as one that relates to new students.
“We can all identify with this moment,” Mirivel said. “We are all on a journey. Some of you are far from home. Many of you will live probably for the first time without your parents around. All of you in this room are like Sam; you are about to make a pretty big step on an important journey. You are about to start your undergraduate experience.”
During his address, Mirivel, interim associate dean for student success, instruction, and engagement in the College of Social Sciences and Communications, encouraged students to “keep their hands open.”
“Learning is about opening your hand,” he said. “Learning is about accepting. It’s such a beautiful idea that one way you can embody this idea of opening your hand on this journey is to be wide open to learning. Ideas, concepts, theories across disciplines will change the way you see things.”
University leaders attended the convocation dressed in black academic regalia to welcome new students with inspiring speeches and well wishes for the Class of 2020.
The tradition of wearing distinctive academic attire originated in Europe during the 12th century. Faculty members at the university wear regalia as a show of support and commitment to the success of UALR students.
“An academic convocation is a ceremony that invokes centuries of tradition in higher education,” said Dr. Zulma Toro, interim chancellor and executive vice chancellor and provost. “The faculty are dressed in their academic regalia. Our robes and colorful hoods both symbolize significant events in higher education and honor the longstanding historic role of teacher and scholar.”
Dr. Brad Patterson, vice provost for student affairs and dean of students, assured new students they can be successful at UALR and follow their dreams into graduate school, a career, volunteer work, or wherever life may take them.
“You’re the Class of 2020, which means that you are going to stay on track for graduation, and we are going to get you all on to the next step in your journey in the next four years,” Patterson said. “We want to do everything we can to ensure that you reach those educational goals and that we help you take that next step, no matter what it may be.”
“New members of my Trojan family, this is where you will make it,” Connor said. “This is where you will get up early and go to these classes, and you learn things you never imagined existed. You join in at pep rallies, and then all of a sudden one day you are surrounded by love and friendships that will empower you to do whatever your heart desires. This university has all the resources you could possibly imagine.”
In the upper right photo, Dr. Julien Mirivel delivers the keynote address at the Aug. 16 Freshman Convocation at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Photo by Lonnie Timmons III/UALR Communications.